January 04 at 08:07
A team of university students have set out to help bridge the gap between the deaf and non-deaf communities of the UAE through a mobile application that teaches users the fundamentals of Emirati sign-language.
The students from Canadian University Dubai, or CUD, came up with the idea for the app named Efhamni - Arabic for ‘understand me’ - after research revealed that families with deaf children tend to adopt more informal methods of communication that could limit the child’s potential to engage with wider society.
The technology is being developed as part of the Ripples of Happiness Programme, a region-wide community initiative delivered by the Coca-Cola Foundation and Injaz UAE, which aims to encourage social responsibility.
The programme supports students to develop projects that will leave a positive impact on society, to encourage other members of the community to follow their lead, thereby creating a ‘ripple effect’.
Architecture student and member of the Efhamni project management team Craig Muyambo said, “Emirati sign-language was formally developed five years ago, but the dialect still isn’t fully utilised among the 2,000 deaf people and their families in the UAE.”
“What’s more, there is a shortage of instructors to teach both deaf and non-deaf people how to communicate through the language, and this is limiting the potential for members of the deaf community to access education and employment opportunities,” he added.
The application is being developed in consultation with the Kalimati Speech and Communication Centre and the UAE Deaf Association, and will provide a practical and interactive platform to learn the Emirati sign-language through a selection of video tutorials that relate to a range of everyday activities.
Fellow team member Nérimel Bessa added, “Our main goal is to unite the two communities, and to promote integration and communication so that hearing impaired people can play a full role in society. The app is not only a practical solution to an everyday problem, but also contributes to the goals relating to community cohesion and harnessing the potential of human capital, featured in the UAE’s national strategic plan, Vision 2021.”
As part of the Ripples of Happiness Programme, the team was supported by a group of mentors: assistant professor Jeanette Teh and representatives from the local business community, Sveccha Kumar and Youshey Zakiuddin.
Sveccha and Youshey, who are responsible for corporate sustainability initiatives at telecoms firm du, said, “From the first day we met the students we could sense their passion and will to make a difference. The concept and thought behind Efhamni definitely addresses a need that is currently not being met, and has potential to evolve and be a game changer. No doubt we’ve faced challenges through the process, but in the end, we hope that this experience will take the students a long way.”
The team is now continuing to fine-tune the technology before its formal launch, which will be marked with an event involving members of the deaf community later this month.
Photo caption: The app is called Efhamni, which means ‘understand me’ in Arabic.